Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This & That-The Projects That Never Quit

I'm still making very slow progress on the parlor floor project now that it's spring and yard maintenance and the front porch project have had me working elsewhere during the day.  I imagine it will go even slower now that I've finally acquired a daytime job in the workforce and will only have weekends to divide between the porch and the floor as well as various other little projects around here.

At any rate, this is a close-up of the floor before I started the stripping.  I don't know if I mentioned this before, but the design is comprised of 2"x2" squares of 5 Tennessee hardwoods-red and white oak, walnut, cherry, and maple. There is no stain on any of these pieces and the design is created by the natural color of the various woods.  The design is great although the old finish has turned ashy which obscures both the color and the grain of the individual pieces. 

Here's a sample of what a section of the floor looks like at the moment.  Notice that in the "after" section you can actually see the grain patterns of the tiger oak very clearly.  This is a lovely surprise that we had not anticipated.

After oiling the finished area several times and allowing time for the oil to be absorbed, I put a couple of coats of tung oil finish on the completed section to protect the raw wood while I work on the rest of the floor.  As I mentioned before, the oak trim of the windows, doors, and baseboards also needs to be stripped.  In the event I get any of the stripper on the floor, the tung oil will touch up better than a poly or varnish finish will.  Once all of the trim is stripped, everything, including the floor will get a couple of coats of varnish as the final finish, but for now, just the tung oil finish looks fab!

Working on the floor gets hard on the back after several days of doing it, so I have a couple of "relief" projects that are hard on different parts of the body.  One of these is the tedious stripping of the back stairs.

There are probably a dozen chipped and worn off layers of paint that have been painted over so there are nice little pools where dust and dirt love to settle and makes keeping them clean a real pain.  In addition, there's a kind of cubby hole on one side where I keep the paints during the winter to keep them from freezing.  A couple of years ago, there was something of a mishap with a gallon of deck sealer being knocked over by some miscreant feline and it bounced down the stairs relieving itself of its lid and a river of sealer ran down half the stairs and over the floor of the porch.

I suspect the feline in question was the Siamese standing on the landing watching the whole thing play out.  Knowing that he'd be wanting to come down and not wanting him to run through the house tracking sticky oil-based sealer everywhere, I went up to get him so that I could bring him down and put him outside until I got the mess cleaned up.  Up the stairs I went in my tennis shoes, collected the cat and began my way down.  I was hoping to make it back down the stairs without incident, but alas, my first step landed me at the highest speed possible at the bottom of the stairs.  After hitting the far wall at the bottom of the stairs and determining that my butt-or anything else-wasn't broken, I discovered that Donnie had come to see what the commotion was about.  I harp on him about approaching things in an unsafe and dangerous way, but sometimes, I have him beat.  I must say that at no time during the uncomfortable whirlwind of slip-sliding down the stairs did I ever let go of the cat who by then was terrified and wanted as far away from the incident as possible.  At least I didn't have to worry about permanent, undiscovered paw prints roaming around the house.  Needless to say, the added sealer didn't help the usefulness, safety, or cleanliness of the stairs since it essentially sealed in any dirt, dust and nonsense that happened to be on the stairs at the time.  Ewww.

The cool thing is that the middle of the stairs has been worn down by at least 160 years of use as we're pretty sure these were the main stairs that used to be in the center hall of the original house.  When they removed the hall, they kept the stairs and installed them as a back staircase.  On the lower riser where several layers of paint have already been stripped, you can see what remains of the original faux finished poplar done in milk paint.

To prevent entry of the brown recluse spiders that often frequent the stairs, I'm caulking the crap out of everything as I go along.  It's amazing how much quieter and sturdier feeling the finished steps are once they've been caulked.

This was the first section that's been stripped, primed, and caulked.  I decided to break this run of stairs down into 3 sections to make it more mentally manageable.  The things one has to do to try to maintain a little sanity!

The bottom section has been completed, the middle section has been stripped to the milk paint, and the top section is what's left.  There's a landing that will come a little later and another short flight of stairs that completes the ascent to the second floor.

At the moment, 2 sections are completed with the top section remaining, but it's time to give my butt a rest as sitting on the edge of the stair tread gets uncomfortable after a couple of hours.  Time to go work on something that wears out a different muscle group for a few days....

Which brings us back outside to the porch.

Finally, Donnie's gotten all of the post restoration completed and it's all waiting for its final coat of paint. 

As you can see, he's begun working out what needs to be done to rebuild the handrail and arches. While there are still some of the original pieces that are in good enough shape to reuse, replacement pieces will be needed to make it all the way around the porch. Donnie was able to recreate a template from one of the old pieces and is using some of the pieces of poplar ceiling from the dining room to create the new arches. We've had a lot of trouble out of the repairs that have been made with new wood even if it's had plenty of time to age which has caused much delay progress where the porch is concerned as he's had to redo several areas due to the instability of the new lumber. All I can say is that you just can't beat old-growth wood.

It's as tedious as the parlor floor, but the porch railing is a lot of what makes the front porch special.  (Saw HI to little Duncan.  He's just turned a year old.)


  1. Your house is absolutely stunning. I love old houses, espcially ornate ones like yours. You are doing wonderful work restoring it. I look forward to following your blog and seeing your work in progress. I used to live in a 100 year old house and loved fixing it up. Had to move due to a job transfer and now have a 20 year old house - it is just not the same. I look forward to our next move and hopefully another old house!

  2. I am so glad I found your blog!
    I am an old home lover.......
    We just purchased and 1800s victorian in a small village and am about to start the restoration process.
    I am excited to get my hands dirty and bring her back to her former glory!
    I will be following you for inspiration and advice!

    Smiles, Dolly
    P.S. your home is amazing!